The most interesting person you’ve met this year just may be someone you already know, or thought you did.
My friend, whom I grew up with, disappeared 25 years ago. I didn’t know the details, but I was aware of some emotional issues she harbored as a young girl. She lived with my family while we were in high school and we grew very close. She became the sister I never had and I loved her dearly.
She was a perfectionist, from the top of her bleached blond hair to the way she set a table. Everything had to be perfect in her eye. She was shorter than I, by about 5 inches, thin as a rail, soft spoken, and very serious about everything. But she’d go from laughing at what I’d just said or what one of my brothers had done, to being overtaken with gloom and despair, all in the matter of a few minutes. I never knew how to cheer her up or what made her tick. I’d jump through hoops to make her smile, but ended up leaving her alone until she came out of it, which she always did.
She was in my wedding, but we were never invited to hers. However, later on we hung out with our husbands and children, but only on her terms, and if her moods suited her. Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries were spent together. And for a short time our husbands worked together, we stayed close for many years.
But then all contact stopped. My calls were refused, and my cards and letters were returned with Not At This Address written by her hand across the front. I missed her dearly. But she’d often “disappeared” this way but returned as if nothing had happened. We just picked up where we left off, all smiles, hugs and laughter. I loved her but was mostly confused by her. But was I too blind, too self absorbed or just too naive to understand what was going on with her? And I always felt a little inferior to her, I felt I could never match up to her perfection.
So, you ask, what makes her the “most interesting”?
Well, last year, on Mother’s Day, and out of (25 years of) the blue, I got an email from her husband telling me she was dying. In fact, she was in a coma and not expected to make it through the night.
WHAT? ARE YOU KIDDING ME!
Why would he wait until now, why not contact me when she had first shown signs of illness, or soon after, why take way my only chance to tell her how much I loved and missed her? Why now? I asked him to hold her in his arms and whisper in her ear that her “sister” Mo loves and misses her.
She passed away the next day and I was devastated. But instead of focusing on my loss, I focused on her family’s loss, her husband and son.
Her husband and I began a long distance relationship via email sharing family photos and stories of what she was like way back when I knew her and the woman she grew into. And I was amazed.
As it turned out, the little perfectionist owned and operated a country store, helped her husband run an extremely profitable design company, raised their son to be quite successful in the wine business, and designed and worked closely with a contractor (probably too close) to build the home they retired in seven years earlier.
Through photos and emails I watched her grow into a beautiful woman, raise her husband’s son and daughter along with their own son, travel with family, build their home, landscape an entire acre into a park like setting and all the while, smile. To me her smile was everything, since so rarely did I get to see it.
I didn’t get to experience the birth of her son with her, although she was there for me when our two boys who are much older, were born. I missed out, or wasn’t invited to her family occasions as they all were to ours, and I missed sharing the loss of her parents with her, as she shared the loss of mine with me. For some reason she kept us at bay.
My husband and I drove 15 hours to visit him this last May, on the one year anniversary of her death. We spent a week with him as he drove us all through the area, showing us the sites, telling stories of the construction of the house, which of course was magnificent, and all about their life there. He was shocked to hear of my attempts of contact and the constant refusals. But he acted like he understood perfectly.
Their home was lovely and I could feel her presents everywhere, in every room, in every aspect of both the house and garden. Her reflection and perfection were everywhere. And all I could come up with was “why”? Why didn’t I know her, why couldn’t she let me be a part of her life, and why did she die so damn young?
She grew into a different person then the one I had known, one I would have loved to be a friend to. Although still a quite perfectionist, I could see how happy she had become, how proud she was of their children, their home and their successes. Yet through it all she remained simple in her pleasures, her modesty and her persona.
I’m a collector of stuff, her home was simple yet elegant; I put on a little weight, she remained slim and trim; I dye my gray hair blond, she let her gray shine on.
With this knowledge and devastating loss, she will remain the most interesting person I’ve met this year, last year and in the years to come. Until we meet again…